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Season 04/05 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
Mansfield Town  
0 - 0
 Chester City
Attendance: 3437 (314 from Chester)
Date: 25th March 2005

The Stags welcomed back captain Alex John-Baptiste who returned in place of Luke Dimech. With Colin Larkin ruled out through injury Stags boss Carlton Palmer opted for a 4-5-1 formation with Richie Barker in a lone striker role backed by a very young midfield 5 of Giles Coke (making his home debut), Callum Lloyd, Fraser McLachlan and wide players Simon Brown and Adam Rundle.

It was the Stags who dominated early possession but rarely threatened. Richie Barker had the Stags first meaningful attempt but his low drive from 20 yards was dragged wide of the keepers right hand post. The Stags best move of the half followed on 15 minutes, with the impressive Coke linking well with Rundle who put in a fine cross which was headed away for the first of three successive corners, sadly none of which came to anything. Indeed, the most disappointing aspect of the evening was to be the Stags set pieces, which were woeful. A couple of minutes later McNiven spotted some space and tried his luck with a well struck shot that was easily dealt with by Chester keeper Mackenzie. The Stags best chance of the half, and as it turned out, the entire match came on 25 minutes. Coke picked the ball up in midfield, showed great composure before playing a simple pass wide to Rundle, his cross flew through a body of players and found McLachlan on the far post, however, somehow the Stags midfielders goal-bound shot deflected off a Chester defender and out for a corner. Pilkington was brought into action at the other end after a dangerous cross from the right had him stretching to palm the ball away with two Chester players about to head home - it was great keeping and prevented a certain goal. This was all we saw of Chester as it was the Stags who dominated possession but the end product was never there. All in all, it was a good opening half performance from this very young Stags side and the crowd, who had been behind the team from the very start, gave them warm applause on the half time whistle.

Half Time 0-0

Sadly the second half wasn't to match up to the first half entertainment, though it started brightly enough with the Stags best player on the evening, Alex Neil, beating three Chester players before unfortunately screwing his shot wide of the post. The Stags only real threat of a disappointing 2nd half came from Neil and it was his perfect cross just past the hour which Barker should have headed home - the goal would not have counted because Barker was flagged offside, though had Barker found the net, the decision would have been more hotly disputed than the rather puzzled glances aimed at the Assistant by Barker and one or two of his colleagues. Pilkington was called upon to make a save from Lowe as the Stags were caught on the counter as it looked more and more likely that despite dominating possession Chester would grab a winner. Indeed, Pilkington then made the save of the match, denying Lowe again with a great save. Dimech replaced Rundle, who looked like he had taken a knock - a puzzling change when with 10 minutes remaining most fans believed it would have been worth playing two up front to try and secure the points, but sadly it appears for now the manager is more intent in not conceding than actually winning matches.

So after a bright first half this was another disappointing home display leaving the fans going home having once again seen little creativity in the final third and overly defensive tactics from the manager. There were some positive signs, Giles Coke looks an extremely promising prospect, his passing and composure were clear for all to see. Batptiste was his imperious best and he and Buxton are a fine central defensive partnership. However, it was Alex Neil who was the Stags best player, he pretty much did everything himself on the right hand side as Brown was anonymous throughout. He looked the only player really likely to create a good chance and Palmer needs to quickly reconsider his decision to release him, for overall Alex has had a terrific season.

Man of the Match: Alex Neil

Report by: Rob Wheldon

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 Faultless, one great save
Neil 8 Top class performance at right back, with some great attacking runs
Baptiste 8 A class act at this level
Buxton 6 Usual solid display
McNiven 6 OK defensively but his passing wasn't up to its usual high standards
Brown 5 Largely anonymous throughout
McLachlan 5 Reasonable first half, terrible 2nd, better than Murray?
Coke 7 Impressed greatly, good control, good passing, looks a fine prospect
Lloyd 7 Battled well in midfield, a ball winner not afraid to get stuck in, another one showing much promise
Rundle 6 Quiet evening though one or two glimpses of what he can do
Barker 6 No support at all
Sub Line Up:
Dimech (for Rundle, 82) 6
Subs not used: White, McIntosh, Day, Barrowman.
Opposition Line Up:
C MacKenzie, R Hope, P Bolland, A Nicholas, D Edmondson (54 C Regan) , B Davies, S Drummond, M Branch, R Lowe, P Carden, R Foy.
Subs: J O'Neill, M Brown, S Hessey, A Sestanovich.
D Drysdale 6 OK if a little fussy

Season 04/05 Reports